The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 2 weeks ago

The Learning Factory: Closing the Skill Gap Starts with Education w/ Mike Nager

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There’s no shortage of orders for most manufacturers out there —

The problem is finding the talent to help fill them.

How do we finally close the manufacturing skill gap?

Mike Nager, Founding Member of the Solution Center within Festo Didactic, which helps students learn hands-on manufacturing skills through its innovative Learning Factory, believes it all starts with education — and manufacturers need to do a better job educating.

In this episode, we discuss:

- The root of the skills gap

- The 3 paths to a career in manufacturing

- How Festo Didactic is helping to make more students aware of the what manufacturing can offer

Subscribe to The Manufacturing Executive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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I think, as an industry we have topromote ourselves again were up idens health care. We're up against legalcareers were epidendron. You know things that get a lot more press, so wehave to make our own press so welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here. You'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from bt sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan your host and a Co founderof the Industrial Marketing Agency Gorilla. Seventy six. We all know thatwe need to attract the next generation into manufacturing. But what are thedifferent paths into that career? And how do we communicate the possibilitiesto that next generation? So they know what's out there. I guess today haswritten the book on this topic literally and he's here to share hisadvice, not only with manufacturing leaders but with those who we hope willbecome manufacturing future work force Mike Mager is the author of the SmartStudents Guide, the Smart Manufacturing and industry four point O and has beenthe keynote speaker at several industry. Events and podcasts he's beenrecognized as a top ten and one hundred influencer for industry. Four point Oand the Industrial Internet of things are II. Ot MICAS worked for world classmanufacturers of industrial controls and has been inside of over fivehundred manufacturing facilities throughout the Americas, and EuropeMike attended the University of Scranton and Trinity College Dublin andis an electrical engineer like Co, founded the solution center of FestoDidactic, a leading provider of...

...advanced solutions for technical andindustrial training. In this role he works with colleges and universitiesand collaborates with them to create smart learning. Factories for hands oneducation, like has been a leader in the eye, triple e, the InternationalSociety of automation or ISA, and the Material Handling Association ofprofessional societies like volunteers, with the e triple mini EngineeringAcademy, which gives students experience in the technical fields withengaging after school projects Mike Welcome to the show glad to be here Joe.Thank you very much for the invitation very excited awesome. Well, it's goodto have you here. You Mike. I know you've got a new book fresh off thepress this year or a few months ago at least tell her listeners what it'scalled who is for and what it's all about. Yeah thanks drove. So the bookthat I published in January of two thousand and twenty one is titled. Thissmart students guide to Smart Manufacturing and industry four pointout and the reason I wrote that is, although I have a career inmanufacturing and have work for manufacturers, there's a generalperception out there in the public at large. That manufacturing isn't thegreatest place to start a career with, and I wanted to get the message out tostudents to counselors to parents that they need to reconsider manufacturingas a career choice. So I looked on Google to see if there was somethingthat was written around this and I couldn't find anything. I was shockedand I was like okay, that's a message for me to roll up my sleeves and tocontribute back. So I wrote that- and it's been pretty well received so far,I'm happy to say yeah, that's great! I mean there's. I'm also surprised thatnobody has filled that void with an actual tangible book, because you hearthis issue being talked about so much almost everybody who comes on thispodcasts. Somehow men winds up mentioning. You know this issue goingon with the skills gup and finding engaging young people and convincingparents. That manufacturing has changed and is not what they may have perceivedit, as you know thirty years ago, so...

...good for you for actually putting inthe work to do it. I think the world needs it so yeah. I appreciate that youknow it was. It was definitely an effort. Let me predict that way. I'm anengineer by training, I'm not a writer, I inclination, so it was a lot harderthan I initially thought it was going to be. I Bet I've tossed around theidea of myself over the last couple of years and at some point I'm going to doit, I'm going to write the book on Industrial Marketing, but it's anintimidating thought to you know, take off everything, that's in my brain andput it down in writing in a book, so very cool. I was gonna say your the endof your book chapter. Nineteen, specifically, you talk about threedifferent career paths into manufacturing. You talk about one thefour year college to the two year or community college and three going righton to the planet for out of High School. I would like you to spend some timebreaking down sort of each of these three paths. If you could talk aboutthe benefits and drawbacks of each, I think it would be great, for you knowour listeners, whether they are manufactures or young people can getinto manufacturing to be able to hear sort of know the way you see it yeah.Definitely so, let's start with the four year degree. First, you know.Typically, if you're interested in manufacturing at an early age, youwould be signing up for an industrial engineering class, or course maybemechanical engineering. Those are the two big pathways into manufacturing and,of course, over the last several decades, there's been a big push forparents to say: Okay, you know everyone needs a forty year degree to besuccessful in society and a d four year degree is great. I have one myself,however, you know it there's a significant cost associated. You knowwith getting that and you're also making a decision that a relativelyyoung age, let's say, eighteen, that this is the path that you want to take,and you know once you sink the costs associated with that degree into it.It's hard to kind of go back and be like. Oh No, I changed my mind, so thatwould be one of the drawbacks. The...

...great advantages you have thatcertificate, so the diploma from that institution is really like a fancycertificate to your employer. Saying Yep, you know I can buckle down. I canwork hard for four years. Here's the certificate to prove it a veryattractive option. Right now is the two year college route the cost associatedwith it is a fraction of what the four year degrees cost. In some areas it'sfree were almost next to free, and that takes a lot of the pressure off a youngperson who's just starting out, and you know, doesn't saddle that person withwith the debt load and, interestingly enough,you know I work with organizations all over the country. There are two yeardegrees that pay as much or more than you know certain four year, degrees,okay, in fact, in some areas, once a student has finished one year, thelocal industry tries to pull them in. Like okay, you don't need yourassociates degree will train you for the rest, you know just enough. You hadrobotics one o one PLC, one o one censors one o one perfect come to usand we got a job for forty. Fifty Sixty senors waiting for you. So that's areally attractive option from the the death standpoint and then also quicklybeing able to make in an income and then finally right out of school. Ifyou're really unsure. If it's for you, you know, there's no better experiencethan just getting right out there on to the plant floor, the drawback is you'll,start at a relativity, lower wage and might be a little bit harder to get in.If you don't have the skill set but eager enthusiastic person that displaysa lot of soft skill capability often can land that very first position, and nowyou can see what the job entails and the advantage of that is you're, seeingwhat the enterprise is doing and you can see the whole listic view of theenterprise even before studying it. So I would say those are the breakdown.There's, not one right answer. You know,...

...there's three right answers dependingon the person. That's considering it, but those are the three main pathwaysinto manufacturing. How well do you find that community colleges or twoyear, schools that maybe you know, could cater to this are actuallypreparing people are preparing? Students to you know be able to go intoa career in manufacturing, they're doing a great job. I have tosay you know I travel all over the country, there's many many hundreds oftechnical in two year, schools in the United States. Typically, they workvery closely with local industry. So if any of your manufacturers that arelistening, you know to the podcast have a local technical college. It's a greatresource for many many reasons to to really interact with them, support them,they're begging for manufacturers to give them feedback and input. They wantto know exactly what to teach the students to be of the most value to thelocal manufacturing base. So all you have to do is make contact andparticipate, and I would certainly encourage any manufactures to do so.You know in my career I focused a lot on sales and marketing and, as such you know, we think ofmanufacture, and if you look at the competitive landscape, you know you'rethinking about getting more sales getting more customers, but there'sanother war. That's going on too, and it's a war for talent. You got to bringpeople in to sit behind that desk, to sit behind the wheel of the car and govisit. Customers and manufacturers are competing against every other industry.That's out there, so health care legal system. You know you name it they're,all. Looking for the same professional people to do the job. So just be aware,you know, of that, is what what I would recommend the community colleges canintroduce you to the you know, really great young people, people that arebeing re skilled. You know that had other positions and you can get the talent that youneed through that college system. Like...

I've heard you use the term of learningfactories. Can you tell us what this refers to all right, Joe Yeah yeahthanks for that, so the company I work for is called Fester. Didactic wedevelop equipment and curriculum for technical schools to teachmanufacturing and the way that we do it is we create a holistic system where wereplicate an entire manufacturing facility in a scale down version thatcan fit inside the classroom, so anything starting from order entrycustomer places in order for a customized product into our equipmentset. We have the conveyors that then move that product and track it. It'susing all industry standard industrial controls.You know from seamens from Rockwell from sick fano from universal robotsand it's performing an entire assembly application. So we call it a learningfactory, because now, technicians and students don't have to learn onproduction equipment as you're aware of I'm sure Joe, that the down timeassociated with the manufacturing line going down is measured in the tens ofthousands of dollars per minute to start and goes up from there. So weprovide the learning factory for training and education provides a verysafe environment. Nothing can break on it. No production time is lost, butwhen those students get out into the real world they're going to have handson experience with all those leading technology companies that I justmentioned them, that's really great. For how long has that so that I couldbeen doing that and then just you see this being a common thing yeah, soFesto Didactic has a sister company, festal automation, which producespneumatic valves and cylinders and electronic sensors Festinat Tis theeducation and learning company, and that was founded, one thousand ninehundred and sixty five. So it's been, you know over fifty years now that wehave performed this function. We work...

...with manufacturers. We understandmanufacturing because our sister company is a world class manufacture initself, and we incorporate that know how into our curriculum for students.So it's been quite the run, we're active all over the world, so everycontinent and a hundred different companies all get learning factories totrain future employees. That's great like there are so many technologicaladvancements happening right now in the manufacturing sector, I've had guestscome on, who are experts in robotics and AI and connected factories and variouselements of industry for Ponon as a guy who's been right in the middle of allof this. What are a few things that you could tell our listeners right now,like a few things that are that? Have you really excited that? Maybe peopledon't realize or know a whole lot about that? Have you excited aboutmanufacturing future on the Technology Front? Yeah! That's a great question,thanks Joe so in exciting technology. Well, let me back up a little bit andsay you know one core thing that we try to do. Is We try to eliminate as muchon the job training as possible? So with our learning factory, we try toexpose the students to these breaking edge technologies very early, so onesuch system is cyber security, so cyber security is often talked about in theIT world protect the front office. Protect the bank account every device.That's on the plant floor now has an Internet connection and once you havean Internet connection, it's very easy to connected to the Internet and nowyou've opened up a whole new attack, fector that plant floor to hackers, badguys and people with malicious intent. So we developed a curriculum and ahardware package that teaches you how to predict the network on the plantfloor, how to protect those PLC's, how they make the sub nets and we bringthat into the classroom. So it's not on...

...the job training. It's in the classroom,training. Another very interesting technology- and you mentioned it- isartificial intelligence. So that's kind of cutting edge and new and we'vedeveloped a program that how students in a manufacturing environment, in thislearning factory, to use a I for image recognition. So we have a couple simpleexamples where we're counting parts and we're using a cloud AI and now they'relearning, all the nuances of machine learning, supervise versus unsupervised,learning and again in the classroom, not on the plant floor, so those twocybersecurity and artificial intelligence. I say these are kind ofthe most, the newest most exciting things that we've been involved in verycool yeah. I think there's just so so many interesting innovations that Ithink a lot of people outside of manufacturing- probably just don'trealize, is happening right now and needs to be a part of almost rebrandingo what manufacturing is to the outside world yeah. Definitely, I thinkmanufacturing is like best kept secret in the US. I would certainly encouragemanufacturers to open their doors during manufacturing week so October is,is manufacturing month in the US and encourage them to open the doors to thepublic, let that fourteen year old and fifteen year old in to see especiallyif you have robots moving around, if you have a high tech environment, letthem see that they could plan a seat in that fourteen year old, hey. I want towork here some day and by the way you know a fourteen year olds and eighteenyear old. You know like that, and you know they could be knocking on yourdoor. In general, the general public has no idea the sophistication and theopportunities and manufacturing, I think, as an industry, we have topromote ourselves again where UPIDEE healthcare, we're up against legalcareers, were efidence advertising. You know things that get a lot more press,so we have to make our own press to open up your doors, show the public allthe great things, you're doing and...

...that'll help in many many ways: goodadvice. What other advice can you leave for manufacturing leaders who arelistening about how to get the attention of the next generation yeah?So you know try to adopt the the platforms that young people use. So ifyou're you know, there's a graying generation of workers right now, as youcan see, you have to attract young workers in if that means going on tonew social platforms. I would encourage you to do it. You know if you don'thave a youtube channel. Okay, it's time to have a youtube channel. Maybe youneed a tick tock channel, I would say you have to go for the target audiences,so I would almost consider like a marketing effort. Jo You're experiencedand professional marking company you have to do a marketing effort toattract people, just as you would to attract customers. It's probably anequal amount of effort for both and it should have equal weight in bothbecause you need people in the back office where it's going to be a longtime before we have a light out factory. You know where you have dressed robotsand automation, we're going to need people for the next few decades, atleast I'm sure to be running it so make it a priority. Jo, that's that's what Iwould recommend. I think you bring up a really goodpoint and that's that more companies more manufacturers are having troubleright now attracting people than they are generating business. I mean not saythat everybody's just cruising right now, but we're recording this in late,two thousand and twenty one and there's no doubt in my mind from all themanufacturing people. I talk to that. The problem they're. Having is thepeople problem right now, much more so than generating new business. I meanI've talked to a number of companies that they can't fulfill orders. Theycan't they can't get the work done in time. Their lead times are extendingbecause they can't get somebody on the machine, and so I think it's just justsort of sit back and hope that the workforce starts just starts. Showingup is is a pretty big mistake. You need to go out there and, just as you wouldkind of proactively generate business,...

Ye, marketing and sales, you got tothink about. What's how we're going to do the same thing on the people's side?Yeah exactly right, I mean as a industry, we have a duty to promoteourselves to work with our local education system to let them know whatskill sets we're looking for to engage directly on the social media platformsvery well said. I agree one hundred percent, so on the other side of thecoin, Mike what advice can you offer to America's youth? Or what message wouldyou like to send to America's youth about considering a career inmanufacturing yeah? So you know manufacturing is an exciting place. Youknow. Sometimes it's called it information technology meeting physics,because things are moving, things are being produced and made. I believe thatwe're going to see more of a re shoring of US manufacturers coming back fromplaces where you know they might have set up twenty or thirty years ago.There's a lot of technical and financial forces behind, and politicalforces behind, re shoring US manufacturing and that's just going tobe more and more highly skilled workers are going to be needed. So whether ornot you have interest in robotics, if you have interest in data analytics orit they're all incorporated in the moner manufacturing a plant if you'reinterested in industrial mechanical engineering again, you know that's aclassic pathway into manufacturing, but almost every other, subskill or subsetis employed. You know, manufacturers have attorneys, you know on their staff,doing patents and trademarks, and things like that, so I would say, don'toverlook it, read a copy of the book, a lot of it. I published online andlinked in articles and other people. Like you, Jo. I know that you've beenpromoting it on your podcast, so you said that something about the skill gap.You know what we also have to address as the awareness cap, so we just haveto make people aware: Hey, no there's good opportunties here and you couldfit in very nicely and have a rewarding...

...career, doing something very beneficialfor society, so give it a consideration. Well said Mike anything else. You'dlike to add to the conversation that I didn't ask you about. No Joe, I reallyappreciate you taking the time to interview me and talk aboutmanufacturing skills and employment and keep up all the great work that you'redoing with your podcast. You always have a very interesting guest and Ilearn a lot from each one. I appreciate that Mike. How can our listeners get intouch with you learn more about what festal didactics doing and also find acopy of your book. The easiest place I'm pretty active on linked in. So ifyou hear this just shoot me over a request and then we can start thatconversation. My Book is available in paperback any book, primarily on Amazon,the books located everywhere. It's a wide distribution is what they call it,but if you're, if you're interested in contact me and I'll be able to hook youup with something fantastic well Mike appreciate you doing this, I knowyou're busy guys. So thanks for taking the time out and yeah, I think this wasa really really great conversation on a topic that I know for a fact ispressing issue. That's got to be addressed out. There sure is yeahthanks for all your efforts in this area job. We appreciate it. You Betthis for the rest of you. I hope to catch you on the next episode of theManufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools, specificallyfor B to B manufacturers at Grilla, seventy Sicot, a water. Thank you somuch for listening until next time. I.

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